What can I design?
December 2, 2011 8:24 AM   Subscribe

I enjoy design, but what different, disparate roles would give me the satisfaction of being a designer? That's 'design' in the most abstract sense - I'm looking for wide-ranging, wild ideas.

My definition of 'design' might differ from yours, but I feel like designing things is what gives me the most pleasure, and I'm trying to find new areas that I could experiment with.

Some obvious fields of design: Product design. Graphic design. Web design, video game design, user experience design. Fashion design.

Less obvious: Plot twists in a story are 'designed' by the writer - they have to drive the story forward and make logical sense, but also make an impact on the viewer, to surprise them without annoying them, to impress with the elegance of their disguise. I would say that a plot twist has to be 'aesthetically pleasing' as well as functional, and this sounds like design to me.

But what else? Designing political strategies? Designing puzzles? Designing cakes?

Your wildest and wackiest suggestions warmly welcomed!
posted by Kirn to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What things have you designed so far?
posted by galaksit at 8:34 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

architectural design
electronics/circuit design
food and beverage presentation
interior decoration
exhibit design
urban planning
posted by ghostbikes at 8:49 AM on December 2, 2011

Teaching is a lot like designing experiences, and there are lots of different types of teaching - classroom teaching (at the elementary, middle school, high school, college, adult, etc. levels), outdoor education programs, summer camps, local art centers...

Cooking and interior decorating (even if it's just your own house) might work for you too.

A while back, I used to constantly experiment with how my handwriting looked. I would try out different ways of making letters (both cursive and print), to see how they looked and what they felt like to write. Often there was a compromise to be made between a letterform that felt smooth and easy-flowing to write and was also readable. The way I write now is largely a result of those experiments, and it feels good to know that I actively chose my handwriting to look and feel aesthetically pleasing. If you write by hand a lot, this can be something to try. If you mostly use your computer, you can do the same thing with fonts - try changing the font you use to type in Word or Notepad. FontSquirrel is a great resource for this.
posted by danceswithlight at 8:52 AM on December 2, 2011

Don't focus on just design. That's a dead end. Focus on something you already like to do and/or you're already good at and then wonder how it can be done better.

You like food? Cook and design a menu. You like nailing things together? Build a chair.

I once dated a girl that told me, "I really want to get into design."

"Designing what?"
"I don't know. Just design."
"Yeah, but designing ... what? Software? Furniture? Landscaping?"
"I don't know. I just really want to get into design."

She's a flight attendant now.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:59 AM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Design is first and foremost a philosophy, based on a system of values, which seeks to solve problems. What are we creating? Why and for whom? Are we correctly framing the problem to be solved?

These are the questions to which the answers are then manifested tangibly in the form of a new product, service or business model. via

Designers are problem solvers. Charles Eames wrote in a 1958 white paper viz.,

They should be trained not only to solve problems — but what is more important, they should be trained to help others solve their own problems. One of the most valuable functions of a good industrial designer today is to ask the right questions of those concerned so that they become freshly involved and seek a solution themselves.

Learn to design the problem correctly and you have completed half the solution.
posted by infini at 9:00 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Have you ever read Shedroff's "Experience Design?" That seems like a good place to start. It backs up and looks at different ways of designing for an experience, no matter the industry or medium.
posted by circular at 9:44 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone, keep 'em coming!
posted by Kirn at 11:39 AM on December 2, 2011

just remembered this one at the end of my work day: database design!

object oriented design in programming
creation of organization schemes for hoarders and messy people
project management (i.e. who will do what and when for how long; what is priority)
party or event planning
design of science experiments
painting, knitting, cross stitch
vacation planning (travel agents "design" experiences - transportation, hotels, tours, etc)
financial planning ("designing" budgets and savings goals and such for your clients)
posted by ghostbikes at 1:04 PM on December 2, 2011

4-D art
Accident reconstruction or analysis
Amusement parks
Art directing (such as for a magazine)
Art galleries

Brownfield remediation

Cartography (better known as map-making)
Casting for films, etc.
Commercial design
Community and regional planning
Construction management
County extension

Directing films, etc.

Ecology and environmental stuff
Economics (including community development and international development)
Educational technology
Efficiency analysis
Emergency management

Film location scouting or management
Floral designing
Food artistry
Fund raising
Furniture refinishing

Game design (not just video games)

Health – community health, public health, environmental health
Home organizing

Image consulting
Industrial design
Informational design
Inventory control
Investment analysis

Librarianship and information science
Lighting (for theater, maybe more)

Management consulting
Management or (or agent for) performers, athletes, etc.
Music composition

Nonprofit management

Personal shopping
Photo retouching and restoring
Picture framing
Production control

Quality assurance or control

Search engine optimization
Set design
Sculpture (including ice and sand)
Sound engineering
Special effects
Statistics and survey design

Textile arts (including weaving and carpets)
Theater directing and related
Therapy (including occupational, physical, art, music, speech)
Technical or science writing
Tool and die making
Toy design
Training (including tutoring, corporate and fitness training)
Transportations planning
Travel, tourism and hospitality

Urban design
Virtual and augmented reality
Visual or experimental poetry
Volunteer management

Wallpaper and such
Window dressing
Zoos and such
posted by maurreen at 1:35 PM on December 2, 2011

Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon wrote that "everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones."

The attitude that Cool Papa Bell describes upstream is something like Marlon Brando in The Wild One. Q. "What do you want to design?" A. "Whadda you got?" Charles Eames put it a different way when he was asked "what are the limits of design?" and he answered: "what are the limits of problems?" I don't think there's anything wrong with that but a lot of people (even other designers) have a hard time believing that the drive to design can be independent of any particular medium or domain.

Design is as much about problem seeking as problem solving. In Simon's terms, find an existing situation that you would like to change. But don't necessarily think in terms of "what" needs to be designed as a physical object. Processes, interactions, experiences and systems can all be designed, as others have pointed out. "Service Design" and its emerging community offer a lot of potential in this area. One example that illustrates the new realm of design is the Australian Taxation Project that's been ongoing for the past few years. They're exploring how to redesign the system of taxation. That type of thing happens all the time, but they're approaching it specifically from a design perspective with design techniques.
posted by Jeff Howard at 3:02 PM on December 2, 2011

Cool Papa Bell just described many young women I have known, and a couple that I have dated.

You're definitely looking at the wrong end of the question, here. Making a list of kinds of design is like making a list of everything on the planet.

Everything that is not natural is designed, from the chair you're sitting on to the currency in your pocket to the exact color of that light bulb over there.

What things do you care about? Design those. Otherwise, yeah, stewardess.
posted by rokusan at 3:49 AM on December 3, 2011

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